The Great Hype Machine

Posted by: Avinash on Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Tony brought up an interesting point yesterday about Cal football players drinking the Kool-Aid.  More so than in any other sport, the best college football teams swing dramatically in their performance week-to-week. While we haven’t had outright stinkers in huge games we’re expected to win, the Golden Bears usually earn the maximum effort from our opponents while they struggle with their mental focus. Result: Painful loss that causes fan to drink heavily until blacked out.

The Washington State rout was our big “hype package” this year; rolling a sterile Cougar team by 63 points seemed to indicate we were a great team, that we were capable of going undefeated and rolling to a BCS bowl. Obviously that rosy scenario hasn’t played out exactly as planned. And considering how Wazzu has performed since that obliteration, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that this might not rank among their top five most embarrassing losses.

This brings me to yesterday’s carnage, specifically Missouri-Oklahoma State. See how Heisman frontrunner Chase Daniel and Missouri struggled to get on the same page the whole day? A combination of Oklahoma State getting angry about not getting any dap and mistakes by Missouri, and their national title hopes were put on life support. They bought into the hype and they paid. Ditto Oklahoma being hyped up as the best team in the country, and then got outscored 25-7 to blow a rivalry game that they usually own.

The Missouri-Oklahoma State game reminds me a lot of the one forthcoming this week–a fairly confident Cal team travelling into desert to meet with a unknown commodity. I would be a thousand times more worried about the Arizona game if we were 5-0 rather than 4-1, because Cal hasn’t really done anything to show me they’re much better than they are. The Wildcats, still fairly peripheral to the national spotlight, would definitely be looking for a prime reason to knock off the Bears to assert themselves in the conference.

Nevertheless, we have a less attractive version of that scenario emerging this week. Arizona gets thoroughly dominated at the line of scrimmage last week by the resurgent ‘Furd. Cal is 4-1, and despite not looking sharp on offense at all, has to be pretty confident about cruising past a stumbling Arizona State team. It’d be easy for them to look ahead, but hopefully with only minimal hype and a fairly quiet #25 ranking, the Bears won’t buy into it quite yet.

So for all those people griping about California not getting any respect, shhhh. It’s the best thing that can possibly happen to us. In college football the best teams are only as good as next week’s performance.

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